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Donuts, Yo-Yo’s and Eric Duncan

by: Paul Gierhart


When I was a little kid I always wondered why our town didn’t have a Dunkin Donut and how do those guys do those tricks with the Duncan Yo-Yo (quite a fade in the 70’s)?  Well, I never found an answer to either question, but the baseball Gods have answered every baseball fans desire for the first glimpse at the third baseman of the new century.  So, select your favorite donut, put down your yo-yo (and trick book) and let’s look at a little third base history. 

  In the 60s and early 70s, Brook Robinson established the standard of excellence for the modern-day third baseman.  His clutch hitting was a nice addition to all the sparkling play on the field.  Then came Mike Schmidt, “Sporting News” Player of the Decade for the 1980s.  Power and defense made Schmidt a hard act to follow for any ball player.  As far as I’m concern, the 90s were a dry spell for third base (my opinion).  Then Albert Pujols arrived in the Midwest League playing for the Peoria Chiefs at third base. I thought here is the “chosen one”, but he has been moved from third to outfield to first by the Cardinals. 

  Well, as the 2003 First-Year Player Draft was happening June 3rd and 4th, one eighteen year third baseman was ending his high school baseball career by going 3 for 5, leading his team to a 30-1 record and a state championship.  Next, he was drafted by the Yankees in the first round, fitted for pinstripes and given a $1.25 million signing bonus.  With a verbal commitment to Louisiana State behind him, he reported to the Yankees complex in Tampa to begin play in the Gulf Coast League.  Between Tampa and Class “A” Staten Island he posted .301-4-41 in 239 AB.  “Beckett Baseball” The Rookie Card Rolodex, suggested he is best compared to Eric Chavez and has a genuine 30-plus HR power, with a good eye at the plate.  And many scouts have compared him to Chipper Jones at the same stage of his development.

  Top Prospect Alert is very pleased to present an interview with Yankees 1st Round Draft Pick, third baseman, Eric Duncan.

  TPA  As a Yankees fan, what is your earliest recollection of NY Yankees players and games attended.  Did you collect NY Yankee memorabilia as a kid?

  E.D.    As a Yankee fan my earliest recollections of players and games attended are limited.  One player that I always admired growing up was Paul O'Neil.  I always loved his intensity and approach to the game.  As far as games go, my earliest recollections are fond memories of games at Dodger Stadium with my family.  Because I grew up in Southern California those were the games we attended, although I have always been a Yankee fan.

TPA  Up to your high school career, what baseball experience(s) have you had?  Any special teams stick out?

  E.D.    Up to high school I played on many AAU and travel teams.  At the ages of 9 and 10,  I won (2) two national championships.  These experiences gave me an early glimpse of a high level of competition and great players.

  TPA   How would you describe your high school career at Seton Hall Prep of West Orange, NJ?  Any special coaches or teammates, that left an impression on how you will approach the pro game?

E.D.    My high school career at Seton Hall Prep allowed me to grow as a man on and off the field.  My coach Mike Sheppard Jr. and the teachers at Seton Hall Prep taught me how to handle myself respectfully on and off the field.  Mr. Sheppard and my teammates Rob and Ryan Clark, and Joe Russo made many impacts on me.  Shep taught me the true fundamentals of the game, and how to approach the game in a professional manner.  My best friends, Rob and Ryan Clark and Joe Russo helped keep the game fun and energetic at all times.

TPA   Outside of the high school game, did you display your baseball talent through any other venues?

  E.D.    Outside of high school ball the most important team I played for was the Bayside Yankees.  The Bayside Yankees and my coach Marc Cuseta provided me an opportunity to play along side great players, and against great players.  This helped get me a lot of national exposure and measure myself up next to the premier talent in America.

TPA   What role has your family played in your baseball career?

  E.D.    My family has played the largest role in my baseball career.  My mother and father, Marsha and Hal have provided me with every opportunity I could ever ask for.  Anything I ever needed, whether it was equipment, rides, or just some support they were always there.  They have always been supportive and have never doubted me.  Along with them my brother Aaron has always been there for me.  Aaron and I relate differently because we're closer in age.  Aaron too has always been supportive and always been there to keep me in line.  Aaron lets me know when I should have done something different, and also to tell me I did a great job.  My family has been the most important part of my baseball career and will be around me as long as I am playing.

TPA   What was your pre-draft workout at Yankee stadium like?  Did it appear smaller or larger from the field?

E.D.    My pre-draft workout at Yankee Stadium was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.  I was fortunate enough to take batting practice and take infield practice on the greatest sports stage in the world.  I was able to work out on the field that I had dreamed of playing on my entire life.  The playing surface seemed just like a regular field; nothing too enormous.  What caught my attention was the stadium surrounding the field.  Many times I had seen the field from the stands, but looking at it the other way around, was breath-taking.

TPA   What thoughts/emotions did you experience before/during and after the June 2003 draft?

  E.D.    Before the 2003 draft I was more anxious for my high school game the next day.  We were playing a huge state tournament game and against the #2 team in the state, and we were #1.  During the draft I was very excited.  I had my family and friends around me and it was a great time.  After the draft I was thrilled.  I had been selected by my favorite team and we won our state game, it was a wonderful day.

TPA   With 47 games worth of experience from the 2003 season behind you, what is your impression of the pro game?

E.D.    My first impression of the pro-game thus far is the speed of it.  The pro-game is very fast, on offense and defense.

TPA   What aspects of your game do you feel you need to work on and what is your off season training like?

E.D.    I feel I need improvement on all parts of my game.  On offense and defense there is always room for improvement, considering this game is so tough.  The most important thing a player could have mastered is dealing with failure.  Failure is a large part of baseball and being able to deal with it is necessary.  My off-season training consists of workouts everyday.  Whether it be strength-training, speed-training, or baseball specific training I work out just about everyday.  

TPA   What is your attitude towards in-person and through the mail autograph seekers?

E.D.    My attitude towards in person and through mail requests of signatures is that it is fine.  I think it is very flattering that a person would take the time out to ask for a signature, and responding would only be the right thing to do.

TPA   Outside of baseball, what are your likes and dislikes?  Complete this sentence…

E.D.    When I am not playing you can find me hanging out with my friends.  I like relaxing and hanging out with friends. 


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